U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt announced yesterday the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship will receive a $1 million grant from the EPA Gulf of Mexico Program to support the water quality efforts under way in Iowa.
“This grant is another great example of leveraging state funding for water quality and bringing in significant federal and private dollars to help get even more practices on the ground,” said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “This EPA fund will help build saturated buffers, bioreactors, wetlands and other practices that have been shown to significantly reduce the nutrients leaving our land.”
The grant funds will be targeted to the Des Moines River Basin and will be used to support the construction and demonstration of several conservation drainage practices. The project also will help support the department’s efforts to streamline program development and construction of these practices for landowners. Information learned through the grant project will inform future efforts to aid in delivery and implementation of these practices.
Specifically, the grant funds will be designated to support the construction of 20 saturated buffers, 10 bioreactors, four targeted wetlands, three drainage water recycling systems and two drainage water management systems. These practices are estimated to benefit 2,800 acres and will reduce nitrogen loading by 33-52 percent, on average, based on values in the Nutrient Reduction Strategy’s science assessment.
The Iowa Water Quality Initiative was established in 2013 to help implement the Nutrient Reduction Strategy, which is a science- and technology-based approach to achieving a 45 percent reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus losses to our waters. The strategy brings together both point sources, such as municipal wastewater treatment plants and industrial facilities, and nonpoint sources, including farm fields and urban storm water runoff, to address these issues.
The initiative is seeing some exciting results. Last fall, 2,600 farmers invested an estimated $8.7 million in funding to match $4.8 million in state cost share funds to adopt cover crops, no-till or strip till, or use a nitrification inhibitor when applying fall fertilizer. Participants include 1,000 farmers using a practice for the first time and more than 1,600 past users who are trying cover crops again and are receiving a reduced rate of cost share.
A total of 65 demonstration projects are currently located across the state to help implement and demonstrate water quality practices. This includes 14 targeted watershed projects, seven projects focused on expanding the use and innovative delivery of water quality practices and 44 urban water quality demonstration projects. More than 250 organizations are participating in these projects. These partners will provide $37.7 million to go with the $23.4 million in state funding going to these projects.